Creationism In Local American Politics
Though much attention is focused on Christine O’Donnell and other politicians that are running for national level offices in regards to their atavistic beliefs and practices, it’s instructive to also look at the local races throughout this country on the topic of creationism.
In any given week one can find news articles published online about local candidates and their views. Let’s look at a few from a couple of days ago, starting in North Carolina:
The League of Women Voters and the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement presented the forum, which featured candidates for House of Representatives seats for the 114th, 115th and 116th districts [of the NC House.] The event was at UNC Asheville.
Democrat Susan Fisher faces Republican John Carroll in the 114th District, Republican Mark Crawford is challenging Democrat Patsy Keever in the 115th, and Republican challenger Tim Moffitt and incumbent Democrat Jane Whilden square off in the 116th.
Moffitt did not participate in the forum but did attend a meet and greet afterward.
One attendee asked if the state legislature should be involved in the issue of teaching creationism or evolution.
Whilden stated “both sides should be taught and discussed,” while Fisher and Keever said the issue should be left to the State Board of Education.
Crawford again highlighted the need for local boards to make such decisions, although he mentioned his strong Christian faith and belief in Bible teachings. Carroll also mentioned his strong faith and his belief that “the Bible is correct.”
So two candidates (out of the 5 who spoke) skated around the issue saying the SBOE ought to decide. The other three supported creationism being taught to varying extents, including two who clearly are pushing for the Bible to be the standard, not the scientific literature.
Not one, even none of the Democrats, came out and stated the truth: Creationism is a sectarian religious doctrine and thus it is unconstitutional for the government to support its teaching.
Not even one.
Belief in Creationism has been shown to be regional in the USA, and NC pretty clearly fields candidates in line with local beliefs.
The same is true for Texas of course (which has been well documented here at LGF), especially in the SBOE brouhahas. So let us now go to the race for one of the TX SBOE seats:
State Board of Education candidates from Districts 5 and 10 took the podium Monday morning to square off in the first debates featuring all candidates from both major parties.
The board hopefuls answered questions about religion, creationism and sexual education, among others.
When asked if creationism should be taught in science class, Mercer said students should be free to raise their hands and question theories in class. Science curriculum standard revisions in 2009 sparked a contentious debate over how much emphasis should be placed on evolution, bringing intelligent design and creationist proponents to the forefront. During the meetings, Mercer sided with those who favored teaching students the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution, such as then-board chair Don McLeroy (R-Bryan), a young-earth creationist. Though the standard eventually failed, it elicited opposition from science scholars across the state.
Bell-Metereau took a harder stance, affirming that questions related to creationism or religious beliefs should be taught in homes or churches, not classrooms.
“To confuse [Creationism] with science is a grave error and we do not serve our students well,” she said. “This is how we get a reputation for a being a state that doesn’t respect science.”
Here we see more of a political party divide. Mercer, the Republican, is playing on the idea that somehow children are not being allowed to ask questions about scientific theories. This arises out of the classic creationists’ argument that acceptance of evolution is just another religious belief and thus ought not to be given preference. That argument is nonsense, yet it resonates with the very religiously inclined populace in many parts of this nation.
I wonder if Mercer would support the science teacher giving the correct answer to the student who asks about creationism in class?
Ok, so what about races outside of the South? Let’s go to Wyoming:
The candidates for Wyoming superintendent of public instruction sparred Tuesday over educators’ evaluations, with Republican hopeful Cindy Hill saying the state needs to take control of its school system from unions and Democrat Mike Massie advocating yearly teacher assessments from the state.
The candidates also split on whether creationism should be taught in science classes in Wyoming.
Massie said he believes that creationism — the belief that the world was created by a deity — could be taught in other classes, including possibly history courses that could address the development of religious thought.
“We do need to teach evolution in our science classes,” Massie said.
Hill said she believes that there’s room for both evolution and creationism in science classes.
“We need to look at our standards. Does it fit? And if it fits, let’s make sure that our kids get everything that we believe in their best interest,” Hill said.
Here again we see the two major political parties differentiating on this issue (which is common outside of the South). The Republican, Hill, is pretty clear in her intent: she wants to make sure children are indoctrinated in “what we believe [is] in their best interest”, which of course just happens to be the religious beliefs of the parents.
These scenes are repeated every month across the US. Creationism is a plank of the “conservative” agenda (the few science-minded self-declared “conservatives” have no pull on this issue.)
Thus it is natural that creationism preference works its way up the political food chain to highly visible US Senate races.
Americans on the whole have been highly religious, right from the earliest colonists up through today’s Tea Partiers. This is unlikely to change very quickly. As such, I expect issues over the rejection of science (like evolution) to remain political topics in this country for a very long time.